Residents of the Cowichan Valley Regional District will be voting for more than local politicians in the municipal elections in October.
The CVRD’s board decided at its meeting on Aug. 8 that voters will also be asked to vote in two referendums regarding affordable housing and water supply and management.
If each of the referendums receives at least two-thirds assent from CVRD’s voters, the total cost to taxpayers would be more than $1.5 million per year.
The proposed housing tax, which would be assessed through an annual property value tax of $4.58 per $100,000 of assessed value, would raise approximately $765,000 per year.
The money would be managed by the Cowichan Housing Association to leverage and attract funding from the federal and provincial governments to build affordable housing in the region.
The CVRD is also considering the creation of a regional service to provide annual funding to the CHA to assist with costs for programs and services related to affordable housing and homelessness prevention in the Cowichan region.
The district will also ask voters if they are in favour of establishing a water service function that would take a regional and collaborative approach to local drinking water and watershed management issues.
The initiative would require $750,000 be spent annually.
There are numerous water systems in the Valley, including 19 run by the CVRD, and they currently mostly deal with their own issues independent of each other.
But the CVRD has stated that drinking water and watershed management challenges are not unique to one community or one watershed, but exist throughout the regional district, and collaboration among the watersheds moving forward is crucial.
CVRD board chairman Jon Lefebure said concerns were raised at the board table on Aug 8 about the wisdom of holding two referendums at the same time as the municipal elections.
“I think that for some of the board’s elected officials, seeing two major referendums coming forward at the same time as the elections might result in many voting against what’s being asked,” he said.
“But these two issues are too important to put off and the referendums can be held at little cost to the district if they are held during the municipal elections. On balance, we decided that now’s the time.”